Before today, Cincinnati's biggest tournament case was that they didn't have a bad loss. That all changed a couple of hours ago when the Bearcats dropped one to the 9-11 ECU Pirates, whose RPI as of this morning was 259 (Cincinnati's was 27).
Cincinnati led pretty much the whole game, was in control, but never put the Pirates away and paid for it in the end. A late drought gave the Pirates just enough room to have the lead when it mattered. How bad was the drought? Cincinnati didn't score a field goal in the final 8:39. ECU didn't play particularly great defense, Cincinnati just missed every shot they took. I don't mean to take away from ECU, but Cincinnati was clearly the superior team.
ECU Freshman B.J. Tyson is the real deal. He had 18 points and 5 boards tonight, and is going to be a problem for the Bearcats for the next few seasons. I found out today that his real first name is Bunyon, which I thought was interesting. As a man with "Bologna" for a last name, I will refrain from jokes, but hope this gave at least one student an idea for future signage.
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The 2-3 zone looks to be the demise of this team. If you play man-to-man against Cincinnati, and you don't have "Kentucky" on your jersey, your coach should be fired... immediately. The Cincinnati players just can't create their own offense, so they rely on defensive lapses. The 2-3 zone offers much less opportunity than man-to-man for defensive mistakes. You have to attack zones, which no one on the Bearcats roster is going to do. Hopefully other teams aren't paying attention and will continue to play man-to-man... but I doubt it.
Cincinnati shot just 35.6% (16-45) from the field and 16.7% (3-18) from three. Kevin Johnson alone was 0-7 from three. The defense was stellar in the half-court. The issue was with fast breaks. I don't know how many times Cincinnati was beaten up the court, but it was clear that the ECU game plan was to avoid the Cincinnati half-court defense.
In all the bad, Ellis had a double-double, including a career high 14 boards (14 points).
The important thing for everyone is to not overreact. This was definitely a game Cincinnati shouldn't have lost, but it isn't as if the season is over. If they take care of business this point forward Cincinnati is still likely a tournament team, and that was the goal for this squad. Even if things go South fast, this team could easily win the AAC tournament.
If you are trying to not cry at your SuperBowl party, remember it could be worse. You could be a UCONN fan and of just lost to Houston, who was 0-8 in the conference prior to beating the Huskies. Looks like winning the conference tourney just became a must for them.
-Daniele "Da" Bologna